Mike Murphy’s Sanguine View

Hopefully, you are familiar with Mike Murphy. If nothing else, you probably remember him riding shotgun in John McCain’s 2000 Straight Talk Express bus while fawning reporters lapped up every word the war hero ladled out. He didn’t sign up this cycle as anyone’s campaign manager or senior consultant. Instead, he was in charge of Jeb Bush’s Super PAC, Right to Rise. Never in the history of man has an endeavor spent more money to accomplish less. Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard caught up with Murphy as he was closing down Right to Rise’s Los Angeles headquarters and he had a lot of interesting things to say, especially about Donald Trump.

The saltiness began in his email response to Labash’s pitch for an interview. Murphy called this “the year of the Howling Moron” and criticized the media: “90 percent of the people in your corrupt business [have been] selling tickets to Trump’s Mussolini act.” He also had an unusual demand.

Murphy laid down only one precondition: “That you put in this piece that The Weekly Standard has become a Rubio-Love Spank Mag — and [Bill] Kristol can’t cut it!”

In this exchange and the subsequent interview, Trump and fascism were recurring themes.

Murphy has a special contempt for [Chris] Christie these days, since Christie broke early for Donald Trump, becoming his Franz von Papen, the former Weimar chancellor who thought Hitler could be civilized once in office: “They made him ambassador to Turkey, next thing you know, he’s in Nuremberg.”

…Trump, if you haven’t gathered, irritates Murphy. And no matter how much Trump surges, Murphy’s in no danger of “learning German” and pulling a Chris “von Papen” Christie: “I’d rather cut my arm off than vote for that jerk.”

He’s not a fan of Cruz, either.

As for Cruz, Murphy does not TrusTed and has no plans to fall in line with the man shaping up to be the Establishment’s hold-your-nose-and-kiss-your-sister Trump alternative: “I think he’s cynical, totally cynical. . . .I don’t think he could win a general election, so he’ll be wiped out. It’s a choice between Trump, who is terrible for the country, and Cruz, who is terrible for the party. He’s too smart for his act. . .and he’s probably pissed that a bigger con man showed up.”

Murphy likes Kasich but not so much his chances, “”He’s trying to start an opera club at a tractor pull.”

Obviously, Murphy has taken a lot of criticism for Jeb’s spectacular failure, as well as the huge fees he collected as his Super PAC director. He doesn’t seem to be kicking himself too hard, however: “Murphy admits, ‘there is no campaign trick or spending level or candidate whisperer that can prevent a party from committing political suicide if it wants to.’”

Ultimately, Murphy seems too resigned to put any energy or faith into the anti-Trump effort. Given the desperadoes’ lack of a plan, that’s probably wise. On the other hand, he’s not going to be guilty of surrendering to Trump and getting in line behind his candidacy. He probably agrees with Fareed Zakaria that this is shaping up to be a change election:

Over the past decade, Republican support for immigration and free trade has been collapsing. But Trump’s nomination would transform the party into a blue-collar, populist, nationalist movement with a racial element — much like many others in the Western world. This would be a very different party from Reagan’s or Ryan’s…

In this respect, [2016] looks like 1964, also an election that realigned politics, shifting Southern whites to the Republican Party ever since. Then, too, there was enormous energy, new voters and a candidate who thrilled his supporters. Then, too, the establishment could not muster the courage and unity to oppose the front-runner, scared to push back against the energy and devotion of the new populist forces.

So instead the party went to the polls in November divided — and lost 44 states.

Yet, if the worst comes, Murphy isn’t too concerned.

But ever the happy warrior, Murphy tries to take a sanguine view. “If we have real, creative destruction here with Trump, and we have Armageddon or worse, out of the ruins will come new successes. New movements. And eventually, new rackets.”

“And I’ll be in on them,” Murphy says with a half-smile. “I admit it, I’m a racketeer.”

No matter what, there will always be money in pimping for the right.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.